Christopher Lloyd on Plant Labels


Dscn1980 This just in from Great Dixter:

"The plants at Dixter are unlabelled.  I know this is a bore, when you quickly want a plant’s name.  Generally there is someone to ask.  Here are some of the reasons for my not labelling:

1.  This is my own, personal garden; I do not have the obligations of an institution like a botanic or National Trust garden.

2.   I hate the look of labels.  Like a cemetery.

3.  They are expensive in terms both of materials and the time needed to list the plants and write and place the labels.

4.  Plants (as against shrubs) need labels that are stuck into the ground.  The public removes them, the more easily to read, but does not replace them firmly or even in the right place.

5.  It is easier to pop a label into a handbag than to try and memorise it on the spot.

6.  The wrong label is read for the name of the plant to be identified.

7.  Visitors dart into the border, oblivious of footprints, the better to read a label that is out of reach from the front.

8.  If all labels are for that reason placed at the front, misapplications of names will be aggravated.

9.  Even when plants are clearly labelled, the public will still ask their name if anyone is around to talk to.  They’re on an outing.  We’re trying to work.


Mr. Lloyd, you had me at #2.


  1. Well, if he really believed that the plants should be permanent — no annuals — the logical solution could have been a plant map, mounted somewhere in the garden.

    (Are we to infer from this that Christopher Lloyd is sending messages back from a, dare I say it, _unlabeled_ resting place? 😉

  2. A photo is better anyway – when I write down names either from labels, or from asking someone – I always manage to spell it wrongly and can’t remember what it looked like or why I wanted to know the name in the first place. Photos also show how the plant looked in a garden context – a problem when you are looking up many plant dictionaries where there is often just a close-up ofthe flower.

Comments are closed.